The Best Rooster Breed for Your Flock
Why Bantam Roosters Come up Short on Practicality
On the hunt for the best rooster breed for your flock? There’s plenty to choose from, but which breed will work best for you? Each breed has its own average “chickenality” to consider, and different roosters perform different jobs better than others. To find the best rooster breed for your flock, you need to answer a few questions first.
Can You Have One?
Before we get carried away here, can you own a rooster? Many cities have been coming around to the whole backyard chicken movement, passing zoning rules to allow their residents some leeway. Many zoning rules include how many birds you can keep, and usually specify if you can or can’t have a rooster. It’s important to know your local regulations.
Your Neighbor’s Sanity
Will your neighbors tolerate a rooster? Regardless of local rules, if you have neighbors close to you or your coop, will they take issue with a rooster next door? A disgruntled neighbor, regardless of local regulations, can make things harder than they need to be.
It’s one thing to field questions like “Why do roosters crow?” It’s another thing to deal with “Why does your rooster crow… outside my bedroom window!” Can you locate the coop farther away from your neighbors? Hearing a faint crow from afar may be charming to your neighbor. A walking, squawking, feathered alarm clock with rooster spurs, set to crow at sunrise every day may drive them insane. Depending on your neighbor, it may be a short drive.
Why You Want One
“Just because” is a valid reason, albeit a vague one. It’s natural to have a rooster with your hens, and many of us become curators of cantankerous roosters by accident. But some people have a job in mind for their best rooster breed to perform.
One good reason to have a rooster is that you want chicks! Hens don’t need a rooster in the flock to lay eggs, but they do need a rooster in the flock to lay fertile eggs. Roosters of all types will breed hens, but when picking your best rooster breed, there are a few things to consider.
Fertility rates vary from breed to breed, and from bloodline (family) to bloodline. Large, extra docile or overly fluffy breeds typically have lower fertility rates. Close-feathered, aggressive breeds will yield a better fertility rate in your flock, meaning you’re more likely to collect fertile eggs than non-fertile eggs from your hens.
Are you happy to raise mutt birds? Do you want your flock to breed true to a breed standard? Are you looking to help a rare breed or variety survive? Your answer to these questions will also largely dictate what breed you pick.
Remember, size does matter. If you introduce a behemoth of a rooster into a flock of hens that are of small stature, they probably won’t breed, or worse, they’ll injure your hens. Similar in reverse; a pint-sized bantam rooster won’t be useful in a flock of lanky Australorp hens.
If your best rooster breed doesn’t need to meet a breed standard and you just want them to protect your flock, then you have plenty of options. There are three rooster behaviors to consider when picking protective roosters; stature, attentiveness, and attitude.
Bantam roosters can have some serious Napoleonic complexes. You can also find some wicked aggressive bantam roosters, but without some degree of heft or height, they’re not going to be effective at defending the flock. Large roosters are imposing, but the larger they go, the more tame and inattentive they tend to be.
Not all roosters are attentive. An excellent protective rooster seldom has his head down, is always keeping tabs on the girls and watches the sky. Chickens are prey animals, so they find safety in numbers. Hens that wander off alone are more likely to get picked off by a predator, so an effective rooster will keep his hens in a group, and chase wanderers back to the safety of the flock.
Your best rooster breed for protection will be aggressive and assertive but have a certain level of amenability. You want your rooster to defend the flock from a strange dog, cat, fox or aerial predator, not from you or your children. A good flock protection rooster doesn’t need to be friendly, but for obvious reasons, he does need to be manageable. Even when you settle on the best rooster breed for protecting your flock, remember that, just like people, each will have its own quirks and chickenality. You may find a bad apple, so try another rooster before giving up on the breed.
There seem to be two categories of backyard chicken keepers; pet curators and livestock keepers. If your birds live their happy little lives out until natural causes take them to the other side, then this won’t apply to you, which is perfectly fine.
If you do prescribe to the theory that chickens are livestock, and you want meat and eggs from your home flock, then you’ll want to find the best rooster breed for producing meat birds. In this situation, you’ll want a bird with a large frame to carry the musculature you expect their progeny to grow. I suggest using a dual purpose breed for this since you want the hens you hatch to lay eggs and the roosters to have the frame to carry the muscle.
Your best rooster breed for hatching meat-worthy chickens from your flock will not be a commercial meat bird. Broilers, or “Cornish X Rocks” as they may be labeled, will not breed your hens well, nor will they live long without a restricted diet.
It may be hard to think of a rooster as a “family pet,” but it can be. It can also be a living lawn ornament or a great way to make door-to-door salespeople think twice. If a pet bird is what you’re after, be sure to handle them frequently from an early age.
Feathered behemoths are typically very docile, even though they may appear quite imposing. Usually the bigger the bird, the more laid back their chichenality is. I love having a big, fluffy and friendly rooster in my flock, and it sparks some interesting conversations when people see him strolling through my yard. Coincidently, the neighbor’s cat is not a fan.
Bantam roosters can make great pets, and if handled a lot, can be amazingly docile. Don’t expect them to deter any varmint larger than a field mouse, but a well-handled bantam rooster can be a rewarding and endearing pet. Also, they don’t take up much room, and they eat less grain than their standard-sized cousins.
|Rocks||Standard||Good||Good||Good||Great all around bird|
|Rhode Island Red||Standard||Good||OK||OK||Can be over aggressive|
|Orpington||Standard||OK||OK||Good||Some are push-overs|
|Langshan||Standard||OK||OK||Good||Big, slow, but beautiful|
|Australorps||Standard||OK||OK||Good||Imposing, but low energy|
|Broilers||Standard||Poor||Good||Poor||Won’t leave your feeder|
|Sebrights||Bantam||Poor||Poor||Good||Great bird, don’t live long|
|Old English||Bantam||Poor||Poor||Good||Commonly used in 4-H|
|Seramas||Bantam||Poor||Poor||Good||Fun, smallest recognized breed|
|Belgians||Bantam||Poor||Poor||Good||Smart, come in many varieties|
Best Rooster Breed
If you’re looking for a rooster to protect your girls, I suggest a mid-sized breed. Birds such as the Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, and even the widely available commercial Easter Eggers make great protectors.
If you’re looking for a rooster that will give you sturdy progeny that could lay eggs or suffice as meat birds, look for something along the lines of a Barred Rock. Orpingtons and Wyandottes will also serve you well.
When it comes to a family pet; Sebrights, Old English, and Belgian bantams can be great fun and easy keepers. If you want something on the larger side, I’d suggest getting a standard Cochin, Brahma or Langshan, since the larger they are, the more easy-going they tend to be. In either case, it’s wise to handle them a lot, especially when they’re young.
What’s your pick for the best rooster breed? What have your experiences been? Let us know in the comments below!